We often use similes without realizing, when we desire to emphasize the meaning of an idea or an image. But similes allow us insight into a different culture, as you can notice from these Afrikaans similes and their English translations.
Ons gebruik gereeld vergelykings, somtyds sonder dat ons dit besef, om ‘n idee of beeld te versterk. Vergelykings gee ons ook insig in ander kulture, soos jy kan opmerk van herdie Afrikaanse vergelykings en hulle (direkte) Engelse vertalings.
so arm soos ‘n kerkmuis = as poor as a church mouse
This simile is probably deriving from an older one, as hungry as a church mouse – illustrating how the Catholic and the Orthodox priests were careful not to mess the smallest crumb of the sacramental bread.
Die vergelyking het heelwaarskynlik sy oorsprong van ‘n ouer een, “so honger soos ‘n kerkmuis”, wat illustreer hoe versigtig die Katolieke en Ortodokse priesters was om nie die kleinste krummel van die heilige nagmaalbrood te mors nie.
so bitter soos gal = as bitter as bile
so bleek soos ‘n laken = as pale as a sheet
In English we would rather say as pale as death, as pale as a ghost, as white as a sheet)
so blind soos ‘n mol = as blind as a mole so blou soos die hemel / die berge = as blue as the sky / as blue as a mountain so dapper soos ‘n leeu = as brave as a lion
so dood soos ‘n mossie = as dead as a sparrow
This simile might derive from as dead as a dodo (referring to the dodo being an extinct species), although I think that as dead as a door nail is more used.
so doof soos ‘n kwartel = as deaf as a quail
Quails are widespread in South Africa and very easy to catch. The expression is based on a misunderstanding between Dutch and German. In German “doof” means “dumb”. Because quails are easy to catch or be lured with simple tricks, the Germans called them “doof” and the word entered Dutch and then Afrikaans. In English we would say as deaf as a post.
so dom soos ‘n esel = as stupid as a donkey so donker soos die nag = as dark as the night so dronk soos ‘n matroos = as drunk as a sailor so droog soos kurk / strooi = as dry as cork / as dry as straw (as dry as a bone is used in English) so dun soos ‘n plank = as thin as a plank (rather as thin as a rail in English)
so fris soos ‘n perd = as healthy as a horse
This is an interesting Afrikaans idiom as the English equivalent originates in the NE of the USA and is best used in summer. In English we would rather say as healthy / as fit as a butcher’s dog. This makes sense as a butcher’s dog would have a diet based on meat and other scraps, thus keeping him healthier than the stray dogs.
so geduldig soos Job = as patient as Job so geel soos goud = as yellow as gold geld soos bossies = money like weeds (has a lot of money) so gereeld soos klokslag = as regular as clockwork so giftig soos ‘n slang = as poisonous as a snake
so goed soos goud = as good as gold (completely genuine)
This simile most probably draws from the end of the 19th century when banknotes were first introduced in the USA. These were actually IOUs, written promises for a later payment, in gold and silver. Thus the expression, IOUs were “as genuine as gold”, as good as gold.
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit… “As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843
so glad soos seep = as smooth as soap so groen soos gras = as green as grass so groot soos ‘n reus = as big as a giant so hard soos klip = as hard as stone so helder soos kristal = as clear as crystal so honger soos ‘n wolf = as hungry as a wolf
so koel soos ‘n komkommer = as cool as cucumber
As cool as a cucumber dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. Cool here does not refer to low temperature, but rather to someone unruffled. As cool as a cucumber was first recorded in 1732, in John Gay’s New Song on New Similes.
so koud soos ys = as cold as ice so krom soos ‘n hoepel = as crooked as a hoop so kwaai soos ‘n tierwyfie = as vicious as a tigress so lelik soos die nag = as ugly as the night so lig soos ‘n veer = as light as a feather so lui soos ‘n donkie = as lazy as a donkey so maer soos ‘n kraai = as thin / skinny as a crow so mak soos ‘n lam = as tame as a lamb so maklik soos pyp opsteek = as easy as lighting a pipe
so moeg soos ‘n hond = as tired as a dog
As tired as a dog draws back to the 9th century, originating in the adjectival phrase dog-tired. It is said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and King of the Anglo-Saxons used to send his sons, Athelbrod and Edwin, out hunting accompanied by their dogs. Whichever son would catch more game would be seated at their father’s right hand side at the dinner table that evening. The hunt would leave both young princes as tired as a dog.
so nat soos ‘n kat = as wet as a cat so nuuskierig soos ‘n aap = as curious as a monkey so oud soos die berge = as old as the mountains so plat soos ‘n pannekoek = as flat as a pancake pronk soos ‘n pou = shows off like a peacock so reg soos ‘n roer = as straight as a barrel (of a gun) so rond soos ‘n koeël = as round as a bullet so rooi soos bloed = as red as blood so regop soos ‘n kers = as upright as a candle rook soos ‘n skoorsteen = smokes like a chimney so sag soos sy = as soft as silk so seker soos twee maal twee vier is = as sure as knowing two times two is four sing soos ‘n nagtegaal = sings like a nightingale so skerp soos ‘n lemmetjie = as sharp as a razor blade so skraal soos ‘n riet = as slim as a reed so skurf soos ‘n padda = (skin) as scabby / dry as a toad
slaap soos ‘n klip = sleeps like a stone
The former version of sleep like a stone would be sleep like a log – metaphorically mentioned in English as early as the 17th century:
“foundering is when she will neither veere nor steare, the sea will so ouer rake her, except you free out the water, she will lie like a log, and so consequently sinke.”
John Smith, A Sea Grammar, 1627
so slim soos ‘n jakkals = as clever, crafty as a jackal so soet soos suiker / stroop = as sweet as sugar / syrup so stadig soos ‘n trapsuutjies = as slow as a chameleon so steeks soos ‘n donkie = as stubborn as a donkey so sterk soos ‘n os = as strong as an ox so stil soos ‘n muis = as quiet as a mouse stink soos ‘n muishond = stinks like a skunk so suur soos asyn = as sour as vinegar so swaar soos lood = as heavy as lead so swak soos ‘n lammetjie = as weak as a lamb so swart soos die nag = as black as the night swem soos ‘n vis = swims like a fish sweet soos ‘n perd = sweats like a horse so taai soos ‘n ratel = as tough as a honey badger so trots soos ‘n pou = as proud as a peacock so vas soos ‘n rots = as steady as a rock so vinnig soos ‘n windhond = as fast as a greyhound
so wit soos sneeu = as white as snow
Imagine the pure, pristine snow of a sunny winter’s morning. Shakespeare was one of the first to use this powerful simile:
… What if this cursed hand Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood, Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow? …
Where do our thoughts escape to? The wondrous one that snick out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Seek refuge in the seashells? Ride the foam of the waves? Or hide underneath the beach chairs only to come out again at day’s end. To balance the fading daylight. To relish into the solitude of the beach. To hide between their own folk.
Last holiday I let the light slip through my fingers as we strolled along the beach. I took these pictures between 18:17 and 19:43 in Mamaia Holiday Resort, by the Black Sea.
I’ll leave you with the fading light and the sea’s ever changing face – and its secrets.
Long after sunset the forgotten thoughts, and the escaped ones, plunge into the sea. As they dive right below its surface their sinuous backs from the waves we see at night, thick and sluggish. They dive in and out and, thus, the slow white crests of midnight waves are born. Sometimes the bathing thoughts forget themselves in their merrymaking and never come out and thus, in the morning, the sea is gray like petrol and the lifeguards raise their red flag, marking a hazardous beach. For they know, they’ve seen it happening, bathers vanishing in those calm, thick waters – although no sea predators were ever spotted. Except for sea-currents circling underneath. But you and I know; those are the long-forgotten thoughts, looming in waiting.
Flirting with the last of the sunlight, Autumn let down her leaves so that his gold rays catch the shivers of red in her stems, the last bursts of life. Thus, Auburn was born, a color to remind us that there was life in the papery rasp underfoot.
She didn’t mind the auburn hey, grateful for its protection. Nor did she object to her plain, brownish plumage, a cozy mantle. She only had eyes for were her two hopes. One dark-yellow she nicknamed Aurum, the other off-white, nicknamed Albus. Easter was behind.
I love that sinking feeling that comes with seeing the leaves falling. Death may be unavoidable, but until then life still goes on and Autumn surely knows how to make the most of it.
When I think of Autumn I think of acorns. Of my childhood. I would go with my father and collect them for school. Acorns are symbolic for strength, youthfulness. Acorns are Forever. Happy memories.
I watch my dogs basking in the sun, the tip of their tail swishing just as I think of them, standing against the door frame. Can they read my mind? I know they will shake off their dreams and follow me as I stroll around the yard. Their heart chooses to follow mine. That’s how dogs are.
118 Military Working Dog Teams were deployed to the Gulf region for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In the War on Terrorism a big threat are explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or a roadside location. Therefore, Explosives Detection Dogs were, and still are, specially trained to alert when they sense the specific chemicals used in explosives, either packed, hidden or even as powder remains on the humans that handled them or on their clothes . Explosive Dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other US locations for this purpose alone.
2000, Robby’s Law, one reason to cheer for former President Clinton
Before President Clinton passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, military working dogs were considered “military surplus equipment” and deemed unfit to adjust to civilian life. This meant that once the military could no longer use, need or afford a canine, the once treasure four-legged was either released or euthanized instead of honored. After “Robby’s Law” was passed, handlers (who had already formed a strong
bond with their canine mate) and their families were first to be offered the
opportunity at adopting these military animals at the completion of their
Some soldiers even used their military operational bonus to buy the dog that served with them.
“Fluffy was my Comrade in arms first, then he walked into my heart as my friend and became my buddy then he became part of my family. He was not a pet! He was a soldier first. During our time in Iraq he checked on me and I checked on him. He was one of the team, he was my battle buddy! If I sat down he would sit no farther than five feet away. If I got up and moved ten feet he would get up and move ten feet. “
Russel, on K920Fluffy (Iraq War vet) – USAWarDogs.org
For the dog training program, Iraq came too late after Vietnam
The first 30 dog teams sent into Iraq in 2004 were the “guinea pigs”, all tactical lessons and experience gained during the Vietnam war lost. What made it worthwhile for the dog teams were the canines, with their honest, open and loving personalities.
The Paradogs: the parachuting dogs of war
By 2008 German Shepherd dogs already jumped from aircrafts at 25,000ft, strapped to a member of the special forces assault teams. Later, Belgian Malinois dogs, lighter and stubbier, were considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. The tandem jumping was done to protect the canines on landing.
A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water and only if properly outfitted with a flotation vest. Such dogs were trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. After landing, men and MWDs would still have to travel 20 miles to their targets.
These MWDs had small cameras fixed to their heads and, trained to penetrate the enemy lines before their human partners, would hunt for Taliban or insurgent hideouts. The cameras will sent live images back to the troops while the dogs warn of possible ambushes.
The elite American unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force, has pioneered the parachute technique from heights over 20,000ft.
U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico:
2009: U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and a MWD wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009:
Navy Seal teams are trained to parachute from great heights and deploy out of helicopters with dogs. In 2010 the Seals bought four waterproof tactical vests for their dogs that featured infrared and night-vision cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls. The MWD’s handlers — using a three-inch monitor from as far as 1,000 yards away — could immediately see what the dogs were seeing. The vests, which come in coyote tan and camouflage, let handlers communicate with the dogs through a speaker and were strong enough to protect the dogs from harm due to everything, from bullets to ice picks. The four vests together cost over $86,000 at the time, says a 2011 NY Times article.
The world record for highest man-dog parachutejump
In 2011 U.S. Military Handler Mike Forsythe, a former US Navy SEAL turned canine parachute instructor for military and search & rescue units and his dog Cara, strapped on a K9 Storm Vest tactical body armor and fitted an oxygen mask, jumped in tandem from over 30,100 feet, the altitude at which transoceanic passenger jets fly. Cara is a Belgian Malinois.
In October 2010 the Pentagon announced that after six years and $19 billion spent in the attempt to build the ultimate bomb detector technology, dogs were still the most accurate sniffers around. The rate of detection with the Pentagon’s fanciest equipment — drones and aerial detectors — was a 50 percent success rate, but when a dog was involved it rose an extra 30 percent.
began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number
that reached approximately 650 at the end of 2011 and 2,800 active-duty
dogs in 2013, making it the largest canine contingent in the world.
The MWD who took Osama bin Laden down
Not many know, but the 81 members of the American commando team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden had a MWD with them. Some say he was the U.S.’s most courageous dog, yet little was known about him until recently. his name is Cairo and he is a Belgian Malinois.
MWDs in the War in Afghanistan
How MWDs contribute to the local Afghan economy
Maintaining a Military Base, building roads and maintaining them requires constant effort. Often local contractors are used, in an attempt to support the local (Afghan) economy. But to keep the soldiers safe, each local truck or worker has to be checked for possible hidden explosives (they are aware of or not). Here is where Vehicle Search dogs play an important role.
Surviving the harsh climate in Afghanistan
If you wondered how the MWDs survive the harsh climate of Afghanistan, know that (some) of their kennels are equipped with air conditioning and, often, if an army base has a swimming pool – that definitely is not for the benefit of the humans.
Dog Breeds preferred as MWDs by U.S. Military
U.S. military prefers mostly German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, breeds because they are aggressive, smart, loyal and athletic.
German Shepherd dogs are the standard breed because they are considered to be intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately aggressive, and can adapt quickly to almost any climatic conditions.
Single-purpose dogs are used for one purpose only: sniffing out explosives or narcotics. Retrievers (Labrador, Golden or Chesapeake Bay) are preferred, also Viszlas, various short-and wire-haired pointers, Jack Russell terriers and even small poodles. These are all nose, no bite dogs. These dogs are trained to locate either drugs orexplosives – never both. “When your dog makes an alert you need to know whether to run away and call the explosives people or whether to go arrest someone.”
It is empowering, yet worrisome to find out that military working dogs today train for such a diverse range of tasks: EDD (Explosive Detector Dog), NDD (Narcotics Detector Dog), SSD (Specialized Search Dog) – trained to work off leash, at long distances from their handler, in order to find explosives. SDD dogs work by hand signals, and can even receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs, attached to their bulletproof doggy vest, and TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog).
A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in his nose and the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.
“A dog can see through his nose.”
Mike Dowling, former Marine Corps dog handler, Iraq
More single purpose dogs, like the dogs I depicted in my latest novel Silent Heroes: CTD (Combat Tracker Dog) trained to detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located; MDD (Mine Detection Dog): these dogs do slow off-leash searches for buried mines and artillery; IDD (IED Detector Dog), this is a temporary program created to fulfill the urgent need for bomb dogs, especially in Afghanistan.
Of course, there are dual-purpose dogs, multi-purpose canines, the special K-9 Corps of CIA.
What are vapor-wake dogs?
Scientists at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have genetically bred and specially trained canines that are able do more than just detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials. These MWDs can identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air. If a suicide bomber walks through a crowd, these dogs would be able to tell him apart without ever tipping off the perpetrator. The cost of breeding and training vapor-wake dogs is around $20,000 each, still less than the cost of training most MWDs.
The Difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog
But training is much more than teaching a dog commands. It is bonding, above anything else.
There is no count to the number of hidden bombs detected and the human lives saved by the MWDs today, yet it is certain that the use of these dogs marked a pivotal moment for the coalition forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to the moral of the troops and the freedom of movement for the ground patrols operating in combat areas.
The bond formed between military dogs and their human handlers is stronger than an outsider can imagine, helping the soldiers cope with a ghastly war.
In crucial moments, when humans naturally tend to doubt themselves, a dog will sense the tension and still trust his handler, and this tips the situation in the favor of the human-dog team.
All dogs trained and used by the U.S. military are procured and trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, TX.
Doggles – goggles for dogs!
Dogs, the Silent Heroes of any war
Some might argue that the use of animals, and lately dogs, in war borders an ethical dilemma. Yet during conflicts, saving human lives (be it military or civilians, always dragged in combat) always takes first stage and it is certain that hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children owe their life, in one way or another, to the military working dogs, MWDs, who served beside them.
Silent War Heroes page on my website contains part of the extensive knowledge I absorbed while researching for Silent Heroes as well as links to all my articles about the history of human-canine relationship and that of the military dogs. I hope you will stop by.
Seeing from afar, carnelian (or cornelain) leaves are Autumn’s attempt at making… butterscotch.
Borrowing the fleshy shades of pumpkins and the brownish-red of quartz, Autumn created carnelian. But it wasn’t until the sun set her leaves ablaze with his cinnamon rays, that the magic happened.
And I let my bitter memories fall at my feet, between the carnelian leaves.
The bark of the pine tree is warm under my hands; I don’t mind it’s harsh feel. My fingers dig into its crevices, searching for centuries old secrets. And the same scent, sharp, sweet, and refreshing that welcomed him centuries ago, speaks to me now.